Debate: Does a curfew save teens from trouble?

Spare the rod and spoil the child is an old saying but it has kept us in check. In this case, being liberal as a parent includes letting a child return home at whatever time they deem fit.

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Patrick Buchana (File)

It has its purpose

Spare the rod and spoil the child is an old saying but it has kept us in check. In this case, being liberal as a parent includes letting a child return home at whatever time they deem fit.

The last thing a teen wants to hear is a curfew, especially when they know that their friends are not in the same bracket and are free to party. It’s only after growing up that they realise that it was for their own good and I will explain why.

Setting a curfew gives the child a certain amount of responsibility that is paramount for their upbringing and will help them in the future. With time for going home set, a child does whatever they have to do knowing that they have to go home by a certain time. They plan their activities around that time and know that there is trouble if they don’t make it home on the agreed time. Being able to manage time efficiently is useful in a variety of circumstances including school, work, and personal relationships.

Using 8pm as an example of curfew time, (which I had when I was growing), the nature of activities done before 8pm and those done after 8pm are quite different, and allowing a child to be out until late exposes them to activities they wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to. Not forgetting the things that come with nightfall like theft, accidents, among others.

Curfews help set boundaries in the lives of children and they remain within reach of their parents, which they are supposed to be at all times. This keeps them ‘watched’ and ‘corrected’ when they go wrong, protected when the need comes about and that is the sole reason they are called ‘dependants’ in the first place. They basically need fully-grown, mature people overseeing them. 

It’s important to children to start their childhood well because it is not guaranteed that their parents will always be there. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” It is very clear and straight to the point and parents need to do just that. 

Not setting curfew time is directly handing a minor the right to make their own decisions. Yes, some minors are responsible but others have so much energy, curiosity and passion within them, they tend to lose control and have difficulty making smart decisions. A curfew puts limit and structure to their otherwise random ways. 

A curfew time can be set for guidelines but can be reviewed depending on the circumstances, like who the child is with and what they are doing (which many parents do), and might also be reviewed later as a child grows into an adult. It is very important to have a measure that is set and followed. It’s also important for parents to set an example of what it means to get home early and on time for the children to learn from them. 

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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Rachel Garuka (File)

One can only hope

The teens are arguably the most difficult period. Sometimes I look back at my life when I was a teenager and wonder how I’m still alive. I was no ordinary teen, hell; I wasn’t even an ordinary rebellious teen. I was something else. That’s the only way I can put it. Curfew, and even the occasional rod, didn’t daunt my ‘need’ to hang out in all the wrong places, at least for a girl my age.

However, I’m a tad bit indebted to my upheaval because without it, I never would’ve made mistakes, and possibly never would’ve learned anything either. 

So, can teens be controlled with a curfew? It’s a start, I know, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into a pub and spotted a table of underage kids doing everything they are not supposed to, way past their bedtime. 

I’d like to imagine their parents don’t just give them a hug and some cash when they step out for the evening. I’d like to imagine that these kids do have a curfew and, like me, are not interested in following the rules.

I’ve always felt like a curfew is one way of telling a child that you do not trust them. I agree, with some kids, there is need to watch them like a hawk. But to be honest, not every kid is a ‘rebel’. There are some kids out there who wouldn’t step foot in a ‘notorious’ spot even if their lives depended on it. 

However, the constant reminder that they need to be back home at a certain hour can make even the most obedient child ‘stray’. Why? Because they feel locked up. The need for freedom gets to everyone at some point, it just comes a little early for some. 

Also, I have seen with my own two eyes that teens do not need the night to misbehave. A kid will leave home in broad day light, go hang out with friends and drink alcohol and whatever else they get up to, then go back home as early as 6pm, probably an hour before their curfew, drunk out of their minds. And a parent will probably never discern this because for all you know, they could’ve been home all day and went to bed early. 

If there is one thing teens like, it is taking chances and having ‘freedom’. They are so eager to grow up and not have anyone tell them what to do. They feel invincible, and any nagging from a parent in a bid to keep them safe is seen as sheer exaggeration coupled with paranoia. 

They are also easily influenced by friends; no curfew in the world can compete against that. And if these friends have more liberal parents, it is even worse. The ones with curfew will begin questioning why their parents are so uptight. Eventually, they will realise that the worst that can happen when they come back home late is a scold here and there and threats that have clearly become just that – threats!

Maybe they need to see the world, make mistakes and learn from them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the whole ‘helicopter parenting’ thing, but I’ve also learned that to raise a young teen, you don’t have to beat them or put too many restrictions on them. Talk to them, find out about the things they like, be interested in their lives - and not just to forbid them from doing certain things - see where and with whom they go out with. Have a relationship with them. I’m no expert but I think the closer you and your children are, the easier it is for them to let you in on their lives and possibly have no need to sneak around or ‘misbehave’. Sure, give them rules, and hopefully, they will respect you enough to follow them.

rachel.garuka@newtimes.co.rw

 

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